SoftBank-backed startups among those approved for US paycheck loan programme

SoftBank-backed startups among those approved for US paycheck loan programme

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3 -min read
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[OAKLAND] Four technology startups backed by SoftBank Group's US$100 billion Vision Fund were among the small companies approved for a US pandemic aid programme, according to data released by the Treasury Department on Monday.

Car-sharing startup Getaround, which raised US$300 million in a round led by SoftBank in 2018, was listed as approved for a US$5-10 million loan. The Treasury Department provided only ranges for loan amounts, and did not identify by name those recipients seeking loans of less than US$150,000.

In-car monitoring technology firm Nauto was approved for US$2-5 million. It raised around US$150 million in July 2017 in a round led by SoftBank.

Energy technology firm Energy Vault, headquartered in Switzerland, was approved for a loan of US$150,000 to US$300,000. Energy Vault raised US$110 million in August 2019 from SoftBank.

CloudMinds Technology, a cloud-based systems for robots with the bulk of its workforce and revenue in China, was listed for a loan of US$1-2 million. It raised US$186 million in May 2019 in a round that included SoftBank, although SoftBank does not have a seat on the company board.

The Chinese company was added to a US trade blacklist this year and has slashed its workforce globally, including in the US, Reuters previously reported. It's not clear whether companies on the blacklist are also eligible for the stimulus aid.

The funding data for the companies came mainly from data firm PitchBook.

A person close to SoftBank Vision Fund said the fund had recommended that its portfolio companies with strong cash positions or the ability to raise private capital not take government loans. The Vision Fund has investments in 91 companies.

Getaround said its business was "drastically impacted" by the virus lockdowns and the loan "helped reduce the otherwise severe impact on the health of our organisation". None of the other companies responded to requests for comment.

The Paycheck Protection Program, well over US$500 billion in size, was meant to shore up employment by providing low-interest loans to companies who have 500 or fewer employees and would certify that they needed the cash to cover basic needs such as salaries and rent.

When the programme was announced, venture investors were split on whether the startups they backed should apply.


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